In a subsequent episode, the family has done what they can to separate Charles from Camilla, his girlfriend at the time, and Charles is left heartbroken. This may be a naive question to ask, but there’s a moment where your character is on a Naval ship he just sits down to cry. Did the script specifically say, “Charles sits in a room, sits down and cries” or was it something that was just captured on set?
Yeah, actually it’s a brief moment, but there was a story behind it. I believe what we felt was we never see these people with true emotion. We never see them show their emotions in public life. Even behind closed doors, the whole British thing is this stiff upper lip, especially with the Royals. You’re not supposed to show emotion. Sam Donovan, the director of that episode, and myself and Peter and everyone just felt he’s away from home, he has no relationship with his parents, but even if did he can’t see them, his kind of fatherly figure of Lord Mountbatten isn’t there to talk to him, and he finds out, knowing that it’s all his family’s meddling that did something to [end it with] Camilla. I was saying, “We’ve got to show him crying and he’s got to cry.” I don’t even know if I said let’s see him cry. Let’s see how he responds. We were shooting in Spain and we were on a boat, a real Navy ship, and the director Sam and DP Fabion just said, “Look, we’re going to stop this tracking shot here and we’re going to go really slowly, and it’s all on you and let’s see. You’ve just found out,” and the tears just came. Any time where you get to see the Royal Family behind closed doors and responding to human things in a human way, it’s incredibly emotional.
Another major scene that really stuck with me was when Charles thinks he’s been a huge success in Wales and he comes back to Buckingham Palace to discover there’s no one’s there to congratulate him. He goes and he talks to his mother and there’s this anger in her that she’s been smoldering with. It’s this great back and forth with both you and Olivia. Can you talk about that scene in particular?
That was kind of an extraordinary scene because it’s amazingly written and it’s like a scene from a play. It’s one scene in one room, and they’re just two people going at it. I think it was one of the first scenes I shot in “The Crown,” so I turned up and there’s Olivia Colman, who just won an Oscar and…had she just won an Oscar? No, but she was nominated. She was going to go and win an Oscar. I stood in this room with this icon, really, and I think the power of that combined with the fact that the power of the story, which is, as you say, he’d just come back from an absolute triumph and any son, any child with their parents, wants a pat on the back. He doesn’t get many pats on the back. Certainly none from his father, but sometimes from his mother. And he just comes back and there’s no one, not even his sister’s there. I think, at that moment shooting that scene, I think we both knew. Sometimes you do a scene, you come away and you go, “That could have been good; could have been bad.” Sometimes you come out and go, “That was a shocker,” and it ends up being amazing. Sometimes magic happens in that room, and there’s only one way it can go. I think that was one of those moments. It was such an electric moment in this room. We sort of loved it.
Speaking of Olivia, I’m curious, almost the entire cast for season three was new to the show, but the show itself was well established. Clearly everyone you’re working with onscreen is new in this world, but most of the people behind the scenes are not. Was there a strange disconnect?
Yeah, no, what’s amazing about being with the British film industry is that we kind of all know each other anyway. A lot of the crew had been working on season one and two, but some of them hadn’t. There were new crew members, new designers, various people were kind of new to the team. There are always new people on any series developing. For the people that have been on it for the first two series, there was no kind of animosity or anything. It is a big industry in the UK, but not like the States. We all kind of know each other. In that sense, it’s all kind of familiar. Also, I think it starts from the top and I think Left Bank and Netflix and the producers, but directors, the writers, Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Olivia, Tobias, Helena, everyone, Vanessa Kirby, there is a general feeling on “The Crown” that it’s a pleasure to work on and everyone’s extremely friendly and open and wants to make the best work. It was a seamless transition I think.
I remember interviewing Claire in the second season and she told me that she hadn’t received direct word, but she’d heard rumblings from people she knew, I don’t know how she found out, but that her work at least had been really well received by the Royal family on the show. Have you heard anything in that respect for what you’ve done?
No, not at all, worryingly. No, I haven’t heard that at all, but I think maybe partly because I don’t think, I can only speculate with how Claire would have known that; I think basically the Royal family keep themselves to themselves partly, but also, yeah, I don’t know that…Yeah, it’s a funny one. You do sometimes hear, I’ve heard the odd murmur about, apparently, such-and-such who works for such-and-such who works for such-and-such who babysits Prince Charles second dog. [Laughs.] There’s kind of very obscure things like that you sometimes hear, but direct things, no, not really. Obviously we care. These are real people’s stories that we’re dealing with. I think they know and we know, and there’s a kind of unspoken agreement that this is drama. We’re creating a fictionalized version of history, and I think they appreciate that. As far as I know, they don’t hate us. That’s the main thing.
That’s good, at least. That’s better than indifference, I guess.
Before all of this isolation had started, only a few weeks before you guys had won the SAG ensemble.
Was there any validation in that in terms of being the new cast coming on board and winning that honor from your peers? Did that mean something to you guys?
Yeah, it’s incredible. We flew in the day before and flew out. We picked up our award, walked out the back exit of the SAG Awards and literally picked up the award from the stage, walked down some stairs, waved our hands a bit, and then walked into a car to the airport. I was filming the next day I think. It was a really kind of mad fleeting visit. Yeah, of course, there’s total pride in standing up on that stage and looking down and, just before us, Robert De Niro had accepted a Lifetime Achievement award. You look down and there’s Quentin Tarantino and everyone, really, so it’s kind of an obscure weird dream, but it does mean a lot. The biggest thing for all of us was there feels like that’s an unspoken thing in the British acting history where we all have to play a Royal at some point. We were like, “We’ve got to do it justice.”
Since you already wrapped season four can you tease anything about it?
Yeah, I obviously can’t tell you the details, but I can tell you we introduce Diana. We go through a lot of the Diana/Charles marriage. Obviously, everyone will know the general idea of what failed. Certainly, this is part of the reason I was so excited to take the role. It couldn’t be further from what we’ve seen in series three of Charles. It’s a kind of more grown-up, more, I guess, more troubled even version of him. Yeah, that’s what you can kind of expect to see.
Peter has announced that there’s only going to be one more season after the fourth and, obviously, if you’re playing Peter at this age and going through the marriage, you’re playing older than your age at some point. Has there been any discussion of you coming back for the final season or is it the idea to totally recast, from what you know?
No, as far as I know, there’s been no talk of me coming back. I think it would be strange. I really liked the idea that there were the two series with Claire and Matt and then Olivia and Tobias, and that we will hand back on to someone else to play the final series. I think it’s a beautiful story and I think I’ve loved playing my part in it, but I think, yeah, I like the idea that we’re sharing it out, will get to do an aspect of it.
I know that you had just said that the show wrapped right before the isolation started Were you about to shoot anything else?
I had two projects that have been pushed, for now, both films, but they’ll go at different times, so I’m not too worried about them. I think it must be the same for everyone in this industry. If I can do them, I can do them; if I can’t, I can’t. I think everyone’s just sort of helping each other out and trying to cover each other. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Fingers crossed it all works out. During this iso, and I’m sure you’ve gotten this from a number of people, what have you binge-watched? What movies have you caught up on?
Yeah, current series, I’m completely mad about is a documentary about the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, “The Last Dance,” which is great. I loved that. Another great series, which I think in the States is on Hulu, but it’s BBC, it’s called “Normal People.” That’s one of the best dramas I’ve seen in a long time, television dramas. That’s really something to look out for. Yeah, generally, I’m just actually spending as much time reading scripts and taking stock and doing gardening and things that I haven’t been able to do for the last four years because I’ve been acting. Its been a really nice break.
Wait, before I let you go, on the last answer, are you a basketball fan or were you just a Michael Jordan fan?
No, I’ve literally never, I still to this day have never seen a basketball game played in my entire life. It’s just fascinating. It’s a beauty. It’s an incredible documentary. I never knew. You kind of know the Chicago Bulls exist and, of course, about Michael Jordan, but beyond “Space Jam” I had no idea. I’m in amazement.
“The Crown” season 3 is available on Netflix worldwide.